Google has defined 4 stages of travel, which encompasses everything from the initial spark in which someone decided they might want to take a trip all the way through the process of a guest sharing his or her vacation photos and experiences online with friends and family.
In this article, we are going to pair the traditional sales funnel with Google’s travel stages to help your hotel better define and select the appropriate advertising practices. Of course, there is some leeway with defining these advertising channels, and some channels can easily fall into more than one portion of the funnel. The goal here is to better understand options when it comes to travel marketing and understand how to best allocate your budget based on both your goals and the potential return. We will explore advertising options through four distinct phases: Inspiration & Awareness, Interest & Consideration, Decision & Booking, Experiencing & Sharing.
From a hotel perspective, it is also important to understand your place in the ecosystem. In general, it is not in an individual property’s interest to focus on generating a demand for a destination. Of course, there are exceptions, with obvious examples like Disney or Atlantis. However, for the vast majority of leisure hotels, your time and energy are better spent persuading visitors with a predetermined intent to travel to your destination to stay at your hotel versus selling your destination. That being said, we will discuss all opportunities that are available from a hotel perspective to help generate and nurture prospective travelers throughout the travel planning journey. Also keep in mind that one needs to carefully consider not only the channel in question, but also the ad format, the messaging, the targeting, and the landing page experience during each step of this process.
Note: This article is just a brief overview. Download our full Travel Advertising Guide below for in-depth research and recommendations.
1.) Upper Funnel – Inspiration – Dreaming of a Vacation Phase
A traveler is dreaming of a leisure vacation and is easily distracted by the new and shiny. They simply have a defined travel intent but have not started planning the details and perhaps do not even have a destination in mind yet. A leisure traveler could be weeks or even months away from actually booking a hotel, but the spark is there. They have caught the travel bug and are itching to quench their adventure thirst. This is the perfect opportunity for your hotel or resort to plant a seed in that consumer’s head about your property.
Note: While this phase is generally best tackled by a local travel portal or destination marketing organization, awareness marketing can be very successful for properties with a unique offering and a budget to accommodate demand generation.
Challenge – Are you visible?
Goal – Inspire travel; generate awareness
In general, there are several fantastic options when it comes to targeting travel ready consumers early on in the travel planning process. The key to success with this strategy is to set realistic goals and expectations with campaigns. Direct return on ad spend is rarely a goal or outcome of these branding campaigns; rather, your hotel should focus on metrics like impressions, CPM, ad recall lift rate, etc. (metrics will vary per advertising platform).
At the inspiration stage of the funnel, your ads should focus on selling the unique experience of your hotel or your destination to spark a desire to travel.
Top Travel Inspiration Advertising Channels For Hotels
Third-Party Advertising Networks
2.) Mid Funnel – Interest & Consideration – Ready To Plan
A traveler is dreaming of a leisure vacation and already has a destination in mind – and that’s as far as they’ve gotten. They simply have a defined travel intent but have not gotten down to the nuts and bolts of planning their vacation. This is the perfect opportunity for your hotel or resort to either introduce yourself and your unique offerings to the consumer or to reinforce your upper funnel messaging during the research process. Advertising at this point in the funnel should persuade, if not convince, travel shoppers to strongly consider your property for their travel adventure.
Challenge – Are you generating leads?
Goal – Remain in the guest consideration set, generate “leads” – email addresses
During this stage of the funnel, more precise targeting is necessary to hone in on the most interested potential guests. Introducing lookalike audiences and retargeting techniques can greatly impact your bottom line. Key performance indicators for this stage of the funnel could include email acquisitions, page likes, website traffic stats for lower level pages (indicates more defined interest in your property), booking engine traffic stats (indicates price shopping),
At the awareness and consideration stage of the funnel, your ads should focus on selling the unique experience of your individual hotel to nurture your property into the final consideration set.
Top Consideration Advertising Channels For Hotels
Google Hotel Ads
Meta Search & Online Travel Agent Sites
3.) Bottom Funnel – Decision & Purchase – Ready To Book
Congratulations! Your hotel website has remained in the consideration set of the travel consumer and the shopper is getting ready to book. Are they easily able to do this? Are your rates consistent across your distribution channels? Does your website effectively solicit and capture email addresses? Is your hotel website easy to find and navigate?
Challenge – are you converting leads?
Goal – Bookings
Advertising during the decision and purchase phase has one job and one job only – to convert shoppers into bookers. Ads will target your most highly qualified leads through brand-related campaigns and strategic retargeting techniques. Furthermore, ads will be focused on getting travel shoppers to move forward with the booking process.
At the decision and purchase stage of the funnel, your ads should focus on persuading the travel shopper that your hotel best meets all of their needs and to book their stay directly on your hotel website.
Top Direct Booking Advertising Channels For Hotels
Google Hotel Ads
Meta Search & Online Travel Agent Sites
4.) Post-Funnel – Experiencing & Sharing – Ready To Go
Your guest has booked and the vacation is now underway — that’s great. But just because you have successfully wooed the guest to stay at your hotel or resort property does not mean your job is done!
Where a transaction traditionally ends with a booking, you’d be remiss if you fell asleep at the wheel while guests were actually enjoying and then reminiscing about their vacation experience. In the always-connected culture of today, smart hotel marketers are taking this part of the process as a serious opportunity to continue to reap the benefits of advertising.
Challenge – are you getting the most out of your guests?
Goal – maximize revenue; generate interaction
Encourage guests via social media to share their vacation photos and favorite memories. Use post-stay emails to solicit guest feedback and reviews to channels like TripAdvisor, or even your own website. Nurturing your guests after their stay is the best way to get them back in the sales funnel for their next leisure vacation, so stay alert, stay present, and stay in touch to keep those travelers coming back to re-live those experiences and make new memories.
At the experiencing and sharing stage of the conversion funnel, your hotel should focus on upselling the guest during their stay and encouraging the guest to share their experience via social media and review sites.
Top Direct Experiencing & Sharing Channels For Hotels
Free Travel Advertising Guide
Want to know more? Snag your free copy of our full Travel Advertising Guide below for a full list of advertising platforms at each stage of the travel shopping journey and specific campaign examples!
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